Airlines, TSA seeking advanced security screening devices

Updated: Mon., Jun. 25, 2012, 7:08 AM
Airlines, TSA seeking advanced security screening devices
Last Updated: 7:08 AM, June 25, 2012
Posted: 1:28 AM, June 25, 2012
Fliers may soon be saying goodbye to annoying airport security lines — and hello to a sci-fi future of high-tech safety screening.

In the next seven to 10 years, passengers will be able to breeze through security without even noticing they’re being electronically scanned for weapons and contraband, if airport security experts have their way.

No longer will passengers have to suffer the indignity of pulling off shoes and belts. They will go through a security experience that seems more like passing through a hallway than enduring the angry cluster of humanity they are familiar with today.

“We see it as a walk-through process,” said Perry Flint of the International Air Transport Association, an airline group.

Instead of metal detectors, software hooked up to video cameras will ensure safety by assessing passengers mannerisms to help screeners determine whether they’re threats.

And security screeners will identify passengers through biometric finger scans or eye scans instead of passports and driver’s licenses. Weapons will be identified by remote machines that will not require a trip through a traditional metal detector.

“We see screening technology that means you are not taking your coat off, and you are not taking your computer out of its case,” Flint said.

While the technology is years away, Port Authority officials are planning for new screening technology as they seek designs for a new Central Terminal at La Guardia Airport and a new Terminal A at Newark.

Screeners at US airports check about 600 million passengers a year through 2,300 security lanes.

Many passengers don’t like the process. In a report last year, the IATA noted that passengers are “increasingly vocal” about the inconvenience, especially in the United States.

“We cannot treat our passengers like they are the terrorists we are trying to protect them from,” the report says.

Until the new technology arrives, the Transportation Security Administration is trying to ease the lines with such ideas as its Pre-Check program, which imposes less stringent screening on frequent fliers deemed low-risk because their identities are well-known to airlines.

“They get to leave their shoes and belts on, and they can keep liquids and laptops in their bags,” said TSA Associate Administrator Douglas Hofsass.

But ultimately, the TSA and the airlines hope technology will solve many of their security checkpoint problems.

“These machines are getting smaller and faster, and from a performance standpoint, they are getting better and better and better,” Hofsass said.

“We are looking for equipment that allows us to have the most effective security in the most efficient way.”

Yes, We Can

In the future, new technologies will help speed passengers through airport security:

* Video software will assess passengers’ mannerisms to detect threats.

* Fliers will be ID’d via eye scans instead of passports and licenses.

* Weapons sensors will make walk through metal detectors obsolete.

* Fingers will be scanned biometrically.

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